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Southern Miss College of Nursing Sees First Graduates of Nurse Anesthesia Program

Tue, 12/08/2015 - 03:54pm | By: Van Arnold

Eighteen students from the inugural class of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at The University of Southern Mississippi will receive their Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees during 2015 Fall Commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 11. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

After three arduous years of classroom and clinical requirements, 18 students have excelled to become the inaugural graduates of the Nurse Anesthesia Program in The University of Southern Mississippi's College of Nursing.

The graduates will receive their doctorate of nursing practice during the University's 2015 Fall Commencement ceremony on Friday, Dec. 11 at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus. Having completed the program, the graduates are eligible to take the national certification exam to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA).

Southern Miss became the first among Mississippi's eight institutions of higher learning to offer a degree-granting nurse anesthesia curriculum when the program was launched in January, 2013. Twenty students were originally selected as part of the inaugural class.

“The Southern Miss College of Nursing is proud of the inaugural graduation of our nurse anesthesia students and the Nurse Anesthesia Program,” said Dr. Katherine Nugent, dean of the College of Nursing. “Our ability to provide a quality program is not possible without the strong support and clinical instruction from our clinical agencies who partnered with us to offer the only nurse anesthesia program in this state.”

Nugent further notes that the support of University administration in providing resources, coupled with collaboration of all faculty in the College of Nursing, “creates a solid foundation for the future of this program.”  

The program's mission is to supply doctoral prepared graduates with the advanced knowledge in the area of clinical specialization of nurse anesthesia. The doctoral degree prepares the CRNA to assume leadership positions in education, management and patient care by offering a curriculum concentrating on quality assessment and improvement, health care system and organizations, leadership, best evidence of practice, health policy and health care economics.

Program Director Dr. Vickie Stuart points out that there are 57 students at various stages in the doctoral program. To date all 18 students set to graduate have either accepted or been offered employment as staff CRNAs, and two of those will be reporting for duty as CRNAs in the U.S. Air Force (all contingent upon passing the CRNA certification exam).

“The graduation of the inaugural class of the Southern Miss Nurse Anesthesia Program conveys the message that a quality education in nurse anesthesia is obtainable at Southern Miss,” said Stuart. “All of the graduates have exceeded the minimum number of clinical anesthetic experienced required by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).”

The minimum case requirement is 550 anesthetics per student, and the Southern Miss class average is 922 per students. One of those exemplary records belongs to Franklinton, La., native Claudine Boos, who expressed a sense of relief about completing the grueling program.

“It has been a demanding three years, but also a very fulfilling three years,” said Boos, who obtained her associate's degree in nursing more than 20 years ago. “I would highly recommend this program to anyone. I can truly say that I feel our instructors desire to see us succeed. That is not a statement I have heard from some students attending other CRNA programs.”

Boos, the mother of three sons, has already accepted a position with Hattiesburg Clinic. “I am so excited about the opportunity to work with so many of the wonderful CRNAs and anesthesiologists who have shared their time, knowledge, and expertise with me and my classmates over the last few years,” said Boos.

Madison, Miss., native Sam Self worked in the fitness industry for many years after earning an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Mississippi College. But he could not shake a gut feeling that he was destined for a different career.

“After several years something wasn't complete. I was called to do something a bit different,” said Self. “The hospital setting drew me in, with higher patient acuity, and a more challenging daily routine. Having spent much of my childhood in a call room waiting for my dad (CRNA in Jackson, Miss.) to finish the anesthesia for a patient's emergent procedure, I was accustomed to a hospital environment.”

Self ultimately obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University Medical Center in Jackson before opting to become part of the inaugural nurse anesthesia class at Southern Miss. His advice to those who choose to enter the program – be prepared for the long haul.

“Preparation in every aspect is integral to success in the program. Education, financially, emotionally, experience, family all should be considered before applying. It is a long three years. If you aren't fully devoted to completing anesthesia school, then it probably won't work out.”

The program has not only worked out for Self, but has also led him to a commission in the U.S. Air Force. “My commitment of service after school is three years, but I am strongly considering making a career out of it,” said Self, who will attend Commissioner Officers Training at Maxwell Air Force Base upon passage of national CRNA certification.

Stuart says the program's validity can be aptly illustrated by the numerous e-mails and phone calls she has received from representative of anesthesia groups who have interviewed Southern Miss NAP students as potential employees.

“During the interview process our graduates have made such a positive impression that the groups are calling seeking additional students for employment and have asked to recruit directly from our program in the future,” said Stuart. “In fact, after the first of the year, the recruitment efforts will begin for the next graduating class.”

Added Stuart: “These students, particularly those who represent our inaugural graduating class, serve as ambassadors for the program, the College of Nursing, USM, and the State of Mississippi.”

For more information about the Nurse Anesthesia Program at USM, call 601.266.5454 or visit: